September 12, 2017

Another beautiful day in Dawson City. Glorious sunshine. I had to hike. I just had to. First, I strolled along the waterfront after I dropped off my recycling and bought apples. This cabin sits on the waterfront in town. I’m not sure if it is still someone’s home, but there is grass growing on its roof.

cabin along The Yukon

The SS KENO is “a preserved historic sternwheeler paddle-steamer that lies in dry dock at the waterfront in Dawson City”. She was built in 1922 and retired from service in 1951 due to the extension of the Klondike Highway.

KENO Paddlewheel

The hiking trail is wide and the ground firm. It is built atop a dike that was erected to hold back spring floodwaters that have hit the town more than once. Apparently, the waters of The Yukon will not breach this dike. What was it they said about the Titanic?

hiking trail



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September 11, 2017

I actually got some work done today. That may be overstating it.

I visited the “Danoja Zho Cultural Centre”, which is the gateway to the Tr’ondek Hwech’in heritage story who occupied their traditional territory here for more than 10,000 years, including the displacement caused by the gold rush and the painful stories of residential schools.

Cultural Centre

I watched a very informative film by videographer Lulu Keating. The film explained how Klondike is actually a mispronunciation of the First Nations name. The Tr’ondek Hwech’in lived where the Klondike River flows into the Yukon River, for the fish, for the waterways.

I saw this poem at the Cultural Centre. It gave no credit to the author, but I thought it so lovely I had to share.

Willow poem

I hiked along the river and the current of The Yukon is very determined, reminding me of Rainy River that hurried past my childhood farm.

The Yukon River



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September 10, 2017

I’m looking at yesterday in the rearview mirror. It was a good day. It started out drizzly and overcast but I made the trek to “town” to get necessary supplies like toilet paper and soap. I may not have written anything yesterday but I am in a good position to keep clean and somedays that is an essential plan. As I strolled around the narrow-aisled grocery store I felt a bit like a bull in a china shop with my backpack banging into other customers and narrowly missing knocking items from the shelf. Note to self: remove backpack upon entering shopping establishment. A simple remedy.

Downtown Dawson City

After I sat at my desk and pretended to work I gazed out the window to “my” yard and there is a small deck or platform at the bottom of the lawn with some signs etc about Berton House and Pierre Berton having grown up here. Two women were standing on the platform taking photos and pointing to the house and I was in clear sight of them. I started to giggle, imagining that I was part of the  viewing. I thought I should go out to the front porch and begin a soliloquy, perhaps “To be or not to be” or some rather dramatic impression of Shakespeare. Or perhaps I could read from one of the many many Pierre Berton books on the shelf here. The women wandered off before I could prepare myself. Another group came by and I decided it was time to bail out. So I went for a hike.

I looked up the directions to find Crocus Bluff. Sounded like a remarkable point of viewing despite the heavy overcast skies. I got the instructions clearly in my mind and headed out, walking to King Street and starting the climb on the road. Seemed an odd way to hike.


 I climbed and I climbed and then I climbed some more and eventually came to the very welcome sign that said “Crocus Bluff Nature Trail”. I made it. So in I trekked on a lovely wide well-traversed trail. Two dogs galloped by me with a “heads-up” shout from their owner, but they didn’t even bother to check me out to determine if I was friend or foe. On I went.


I caught my breath looking over this magnificent view. If only I could paint.

I began to retrace my steps and came upon a sign with an arrow that said “Ninth Avenue Trail”.


Well, I thinks to me-self, I live on Eighth Avenue so perhaps I should follow this trail. And I did. I whistled and sang as all the rather worrisome signs suggested to keep the bears away from me. I trekked down the slope, back and forth a bit like a sail boat. When I came out on the road, to borrow a phrase from Perry Como, “What to my wondering eyes should appear?” I was two blocks from my house. Conclusion:  I took the longest possible route to Crocus Bluff. Sigh. But the good news:  I didn’t get eaten by a bear. So all in all, a good outing.

Plan for today:  figure out a meal that doesn’t include toast. I love toast. Toast is good. I am grateful for toast. But perhaps a vegetable wouldn’t be a bad idea.  Wish me luck.

Oh, and new sheets. I think the sheets on the bed were here when Pierre Berton slept on them. As inspiring as that may be … it’s time for new sheets.


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September 9 2017

I made it. I’m really here.  I only managed to close my eyes for a few hours on Thursday night in Whitehorse, fearful I wouldn’t hear my 4:45 am alarm go off.  So instead my brain woke me every hour just to be sure I knew the time in appropriate intervals.

Air North brought me safely to Dawson City and the flight was full. We had to make three approaches due to fog but snuck in on the final try, thankfully, or we were headed back to Whitehorse until the fog lifted.

We flew in a Hawker Siddeley 748, which quite coincidentally I was a flight attendant on a billion years ago in northern Ontario. So how fitting was that I ask you. The service was great and we flew low enough that I could check out the incredible landscape all the way from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

IMG_Dawson City Airport

A kind member of Dawson City picked me up at the airport and delivered me to the house that will be home for the next four months. I was giddy. Could have been the lack of sleep but I like to think it was excitement for what is to come.

Berton House

I sat and took in all the moments that happened in this house from Pierre Berton’s childhood to all the many writers who came and found inspiration here.

Writing Desk

And what should be right directly across the street from me, that I can look out “my” living room window at?

Robert Service Cabin

Robert Service’s cabin

I spent the day walking in the beautiful sunshine.  It was a gorgeous day. I blended in with the tourists and felt deliciously invisible. No one minded while I snapped photos and peered in windows (of shops, not private residences in case you were concerned). I walked the bank of the Klondike River. I felt very much at home.

Klondike River

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Leaving Home

It begins! I am in Whitehorse, YT and I’ve done my walkabout this morning, taking it all in, finding the Library and CBC Radio for later commitments.  I am functioning on three hours of sleep but remarkably, I am upright and functioning at some level that keeps me from wandering into traffic or into the swift and very serious looking Yukon River.

I get the feeling I have followed the yellow brick road and found myself in Whitehorse. What a perfectly wonderful place. No tall buildings, and very wide streets, amazing terrain. I am pinching myself. Am I really here? I think I might be.

IMG_2017 09 Edgewater Hotel Whitehorse

The Edgewater Hotel

The mountains on the flight in were round smooth bald masses, as if the trees couldn’t hold on and slipped down the sides. Little evidence of hardwoods was visible, all the pines and spruces claiming dominance. It is a beautifully rugged place, without pretension or glitz. It is pure.

The time change is always a struggle. This country is so ridiculously large. I was travelling for 15 hours from 9:00 in the morning yesterday. I was dizzy by the time I arrived and quite a little bit sick of small spaces.

I wandered down the street just before lunch to CBC Radio and met with Dave White and tried very hard to appear somewhat intelligent. I think it went rather well. No fainting, not too much stuttering, Dave made it very easy.

IMG_2017 09 CBC Radio Whitehorse

I do a reading tonight at the Whitehorse Public Library along with Al Pope, a well known local writer.

2017 09 Whitehorse Public Library

I carry on to Dawson City tomorrow to serve as writer-in-residence at Berton House for four months. Four months! The Writers’ Trust of Canada chose me along with Lawrence Hill and Drew Hayden Taylor and Sandy Poole. They are real writers. Does that mean I am, too?


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Gratitude – Post 95 – The Elusive Pen

I am grateful for the perfect writing implement, but having said that, I maybe should clarify that I am grateful for the journey of finding such a writing tool. Let me explain.

I used to think I would be an excellent skier if I had good skis and of course, matching attire in very cool colours, something slightly more form-fitting than my black and orange Moto-Ski snowsuit that kept the cold from my skin while I stood on Pembina Highway waiting for the Winnipeg city bus to rescue me from the freezing temperatures and whisk me off to the University of Manitoba, my orange scarf wrapped round and round my head as though my mother had dressed me for an expedition to the North Pole. Being warm out-ranked being cool as I am sure you can imagine.

I used to think I would be a better cook if I had the right pots and the perfect apron. No ruffles allowed. An apron in a bright green with possibly a frog leaping across the front would fit the bill. The ingredients would then jump into the mix with culinary precision, the aroma fragrant and the flavours decadent. I am a mediocre cook at best despite having a wonderful apron and reasonably good pots.

I used to think if I had the right shoes I could tap dance and the shoes would know all the right steps and I would tap out a story in perfect rhythm with the music. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly would swoon if they witnessed my Double Buffalo and my Paradiddle and I would give new meaning to the Scuffle Step. I never owned a pair of tap shoes so perhaps that is why I didn’t have a career on the stage, though it wasn’t for lack of pretending on my childhood linoleum kitchen floor until those who didn’t appreciate my tapping talent held me down with harsh threats of stop making such a racket or else.

I used to think my world would demonstrate perfect order if I had the right refrigerator, a roomy one with shelves that move up and down and slide in and out. My refrigerator contents look like my cat put my food away and when I clean and polish and shine the insides of my refrigerator the results, like my life, display an organization that prevails for brief seconds.

But. There is always a but isn’t there, despite my reluctance to use that word in conversation and in conjuring up various options to problems. I have been on a quest for several decades now for the perfect pen. I have found one or two that came close but despite keeping a healthy inventory of them the pen was discontinued at some point. I need the right pen in my hand to do serious writing. I can rattle off ideas and lists with any old pen, usually a pencil, but when I am in serious writing mode I need the perfect implement. I have pulled the lid from my last “perfect” pen so I must begin my search again and I hardly know where to start. I sometimes look longingly at the pen sets that are under glass at the pen store. I never look at the price tag because that would be foolish. One can’t take such chances. It is bad enough buying a mattress without being able to sleep in it for a couple of weeks to be sure, but to buy an expensive pen with no guarantee of its perfection is madness, plain and simple.

I went through a fountain pen stage in school, the kind that required filling from an ink bottle and then I graduated to fountain pens that came with cartridges and they were exceptionally cool, but eventually I tired of the mess on my fingers. There are ball point pens, gel pens, roller balls and fibre tips of every variety and though I like a fine tip, it can’t be so fine that it scratches when I write. So before I leave for the Yukon to spend four months at the craft of writing, I must find a solution for my pen dilemma. Time is running out. Such challenges are the stuff of life. (My tongue is in my cheek just in case you weren’t sure.) I shall carry on.

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Gratitude – Post 94 – August

I’m grateful for August, but not for the reasons one would think. August reminds me of something I need to be reminded about.

August snuck out from behind the weeds in my garden and from my so-called lawn and pounced on me, when I least expected it. August caught me off guard and threw me to the ground before I could fight back and then knocked the last bit of oxygen from my lungs. August, the month of seeing summer in the rearview mirror, has arrived.

Back to school supplies are out and though I long to buy new erasers and fresh clean stacks of paper and freshly sharpened pencils and binders and book bags, the thought of summer being in the past tense has me digging my fingernails into this day and not letting summer get away from me. But we all know how that turns out; the effort is fruitless.

August is the last chance to get a holiday in, the last chance to spring clean my windows, the last chance for picnics and boat rides and swimming in northwestern Ontario water. I know that isn’t really true, but this August day, as I sit at my desk circling the wagons around my literary efforts, those feelings seem immensely real.

August takes the summer green of July and bakes it to a dull version of itself. The grass quits growing with the same determined enthusiasm. Firewood stacking has begun, chimney cleaning booked, picking berries started and pretending I’ll do something with the dill that grows of its own accord in the pockets and corners of my garden and staring at my paddock fence does not get it painted. I’m running out of time.

Time isn’t a tangible concept, not really. What one particular minute feels like to you differs from what it feels like to me and that can change on any given day. As we age, it seems the minutes pick up their pace, trying with dedicated fervor to out run the last.

William Penn said that “time is what we want most, but what we use worst”. I had heard that saying on many occasions and it prompted me to look up the purveyor of such truth. William Penn lived from 1644 to 1718 and he was an English real estate entrepreneur, a fact I found a bit odd, considering the day in history, but that reflects my own limited education in the idea of conveying real estate. More importantly, Penn was deemed an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom. He was a Quaker and known for his good relations with “Native Americans”, a rarity at that time. Quakers don’t bow to king and consider all men equal. So I have to credit Penn with wisdom regarding time and how we use time with little regard for its peril.

I had promised myself I would take my morning coffee to my deck and tuck into a chair under my gazebo shelter and I would start the day slowly and with intention and with focus to enjoy each second or be aware of each second at the very least. I failed. Today I crawled from bed after a very little bit of sleep and I trudged as I began my day. I’ll do better tomorrow, because as Benjamin Franklin told us, “Lost time is never found again.”

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